Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cleaning up my houses - Paperwork! Paperwork! Paperwork!

I will say that the biggest cleaning battles that I have in my house are laundry, dishes, and paperwork. So, today, I am going to write about how I am tackling the paperwork in my house. In my ‘cleaning up my houses’ approach, paperwork generally spills into all of the houses. There are business papers, kids papers, family cards and addresses, important papers that fit into the spouse house, of course financial papers, crafting books, and so on. So, tackling this project seems to spill over into cleaning up all of my houses. It is a task that I loath, but a necessary one!

The paperwork monster had been growing for months. Sure, the newspapers generally made it to the recycling center, and junk mail was dealt with accordingly, but the kids papers, receipts, business papers, bills, magazines, photographs, cards, and the list goes on and on… were starting to drive me insane. So first things first, I got some empty boxes and bins and just started gathering papers from all over the house and putting them in the boxes. When all was said and done, I had 3-4 large containers of paperwork. Really, I almost gave up at that point. The shear enormity of the problem was sitting right in front of me. So, a couple of weeks ago, when the kiddos were going to spend the night with my mother and my husband was out of town working, I decided to cancel my plans of working on crafts and finally tackle the paperwork.

UGH! This was not what I wanted to do on my evening of peace and quiet, but I just kept thinking how much better I would feel that it was all behind me. So, I put in a movie – one that I had seen before and didn’t need to watch too closely, grabbed something to drink, and plopped down in the middle of the living room with one of my boxes.

What was I going to do now? I didn’t have files already labeled; I didn’t even know what to label them if I had them. So, I just started sorting.

First I made 4 stacks – One was “recycle”, one was “shred”, one was “personal”, and the last was “business”. I sorted the whole box into one of these 4 piles. When I was finished, 2/3rds of the paperwork was either in shred or recycle and those stacks were falling over. So, I converted the now empty box into the recycle pile, and went ahead and shredded the shred pile and added the shreds to the recycle. On to box number two, box number 3, and finally box number 4.

It was a quick sort, and not the time to read things carefully, just quickly sorting and moving on to the next piece of paper.

At that point, I was really inspired to keep on going. So, I decided to go ahead and tackle the business stack. Most of the items in this stack were papers that I needed for tax purposes. So, I sorted this stack by 2008 taxes, 2009 taxes, things that I need to do something with immediately, and everything else.

This sort when slower than the initial sort, but still relatively quickly, and I was ready to further sort the stacks.

When I was finished with the sorting I then got out the label maker and put each section into a file folder with a label.

Sorting the non-business stuff was basically the same process. However, I did take the time to write the year on all of the children’s artwork that I decided to keep, and I tried to keep only the things that were either achievements or special pictures. I also made a special stack for addresses that need to be added to our address book, photos, and coupons.

Again, I labeled folders and put things in the folders when I was finished sorting.
By the end of the evening, and it was a very late night, I felt very accomplished. Although, I did have a sense that I had created more work for myself by bringing my attention to a lot of the un-done things that were outstanding. However, I knew that when it came time to do those tasks, like putting addresses in the address book, I would know where everything was!

I know that others could probably handle this much more efficiently than I did, by not handling the same piece of paper 5 or 6 times and just starting out with more stacks. However, for me, it was nice to be able to sit in one place and not have to think about what I had a pile for and when I needed to start a new pile. Also, I knew that I could stop and start pretty easily.

If you don’t have an entire evening to devote to your project like I did, I would recommend that you just create a pile and do the initial sort of getting the stuff you don’t need to keep out first. Hopefully your stacks will shrink like mine did!

Again, if you have tips to share, please do!

1 comment:

Kristina said...

We have a small box on the kitchen counter that all paper goes into before being sorted. Ideally, papers would be put away immediately, but since it isn't, I'd rather have a place to throw misc. papers than have them gather on every clean surface of my house. :)